Players, managers and officials from all 20 SSE Airtricity teams were at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday for the launch of the 2016 SSE Airtricity League season.
Newly promoted Finn Harps were represented at the event by new signing, Adam Hanlon and manager, Ollie Horgan.
The FAI announced an increase of 50 per cent in the prize money for this year’s Premier and First Division.
The leagues will commence on Friday, March 4, and a total of 330 league and play-off games will be played in addition to matches in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup, EA Sports Cup, President’s Cup, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.
Aside from the return of Harps to the big time, among the highlights of the new season will be a first ever appearance in the top flight by Wexford Youths.
Dundalk will be bidding to become the first team since Shamrock Rovers over 30 years ago to win three successive league titles.
Launching the 2016 season, the FAI’s Director of Competitions, Fran Gavin said: “This is an opportunity to reflect where the National League is at the moment and I believe it is currently in a good place.
“Attendances are up, clubs are more stable than they have been in a long time, longer contracts are being offered to players and our under-age leagues have created a development side to our clubs that really didn’t exist prior to 2011.”
The prize money will rise from €315,500 to €475,500 for the League which is in addition to the prize fund for the FAI Cup, the EA Sports Cup and UEFA Fair Play. In total clubs will be competing for a total prize fund of €596,500.
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